From Long-Shot to $50 Billion Empire – Bill Rasmussen (#258)

“Remember: ABC, NBC—Always Be Curious, Never Be Complacent.” — Bill Rasmussen

Bill Rasmussen (@bill_espn) is the co-founder of ESPN. He turned a massive gamble into an opportunity to create the 24-hour programming cycle used universally by networks today.

This episode comes from my new television show Fear(less), where I interview world-class performers about how they’ve overcome doubt, conquered fear, and made their toughest decisions. You can watch the entire first episode with illusionist David Blaine for free at (To watch all episodes, please visit DIRECTV NOW).

We recorded three hours of material and only one hour was used for the TV show. This podcast episode is almost entirely new content that didn’t appear on TV.


You can find the transcript of this episode here. Transcripts of all episodes can be found here.

#258: From Long-Shot to $50 Billion Empire - Bill Rasmussen

Want to hear another podcast with a guest from Fearless? — Listen to this episode with Micahel Gervais. We discuss how to win the war against anxiety, some of the more effective (and less effective) ways to self-talk, behind-the-scenes stories of Michael’s clients, understanding mastery, and much more. (stream below or right-click here to download):

#256: How to Overcome Anxiety and Stress - with Adviser to Olympians, Michael Gervais

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QUESTION OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes…

Selected Links from the Episode

  • Connect with Bill Rasmussen:

Website | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook

Show Notes

  • Bill Rasmussen credits his grandfather with turning him into a rabid sports fan.[07:34]
  • Bill remembers exactly where he was when Pearl Harbor was attacked and gives a fourth-grader’s perspective of WWII. [10:08]
  • Our youthful baseball experiences were similarly disastrous. [13:26]
  • Bill writes an essay that sends him to Washington for President Truman’s 1949 inauguration, where he meets one of his idols. [14:26]
  • Professors who had an impact on Bill at DePauw University. [16:49]
  • Bill’s brief stint as a weatherman — and how he found a way to incorporate sports into the presentation. [19:45]
  • Cassius Clay (aka Muhammad Ali) and his place in the EPSN formation story. [24:35]
  • Is “things happen for a reason” one of Bill’s core beliefs? [27:10]
  • How would Bill approach teaching students to be more confident? [27:23]
  • The Anheuser-Busch connection to ESPN’s inception. [28:20]
  • Most costly missteps early on. [31:19]
  • Bill presents an artifact from his past. [36:32]
  • If the Bill of 2017 could give advice to his earlier self the day before ESPN launched, what would he tell himself? [39:18]
  • Is Bill the Nostradamus of college sports? [41:09]
  • To this day, ESPN’s mission statement is still six words. [42:13]
  • How does Bill gauge his investments? [43:26]
  • How has Bill managed his time differently from the competition? [44:46]
  • On the layers of ESPN’s mothership. [50:12]
  • What sports does Bill wish were more popular in the US? [52:18]
  • On the random power of chaos. [53:14]
  • One of ESPN’s early marketing stories. [55:32]
  • Why did the US build submarines in Manitowoc, Wisconsin during WWII — and how should this inform modern society? [59:27]
  • What does Bill consider one of his most worthwhile investments (in money, time, or energy)? [1:01:16]
  • On reaching people circa 1979. [1:04:10]

People Mentioned

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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19 Replies to “From Long-Shot to $50 Billion Empire – Bill Rasmussen (#258)”

  1. Love this quote “Remember ‘ABC NBC’ — Always Be Curious, Never Be Complacent.“

    – Bill Rasmussen

    Some believe curiosity killed the cat, but curiosity has led to so many great things in my life. Just recently, my wife’s curiosity got us a spontaneous tour of a cruise ship we will be headed on for our anniversary. She couldn’t help, but look and next thing you know a super nice guy is showing us around.

    What a story from Mr. Rasmussen. Never knew he was behind ESPN and it was such a gamble!

  2. Tim,

    I am doing this thing I call “Appreciation August” where I write to someone each day thanking them for the impact they have had on me. I have been listening to your podcast for at least a year now and it has had such a positive influence on my life. I like to call you the “google” of useful information and successful people. If I want to learn something worthwhile, I open up the Tools of Titans book and find someone interesting and look up work that they have done.

    I have been on a soul searching adventure for the last year or so and your podcast has been a huge help in how I go about my life every day. I have learned so much information from your podcast that has helped me improve at work and in life. The people that you have lead me to and the things that you have talked about on the Tim Ferris Show have been extremely invaluable to me. I got a new job where I got a 40% increase in pay and benefits (YAY!), my social life has improved, and my important relationships have improved, and a huge part of that is because of the work you have done. Things such as mediation, morning routines, reflection journal, flotation tank (trying that next week!), reading the stoics, have all been huge help in improving my life. I can’t thank you enough for the work you have done!

    I read the part about suicide in Tools of Titans and wanted to let you know something that I have been doing that past year that you may or may not have heard about. I volunteer for the Crisis Text Line where people in Crisis text in to a hotline and you help them in whatever situation they may be in (suicidal, self-harm, rape, etc). It has been such a humbling experience for me and I have had some of the most beautiful conversations while being a Crisis Text Line Counselor. The skills I have learned from that have also helped deepen my relationships as well as make new ones. It is a 200 hr. commitment (4 hours a week for a year roughly) and you can do it all from home on your computer. You sign up for a shift that works for you and save lives from your couch! Like I said, I am not sure if you have heard about this opportunity or not, but I thought if you haven’t you would really like it and can tell listeners about it that are looking for great volunteer opportunities!

    Again, I wanted to thank you from the bottom of my heart for the positive impact you have had on my life with all the work you do. Keep it up!



  3. Nice touchdown story 😉 As for his quotes Tim, Bill helped found an iconic venture because he embodied those quotes. I see more daily how being a combo of: fearless, and scared, but willing to dive into fears, well, being that mix is the way to do inspired things that provide service and that help more folks hear my story.

    He was not so much ahead of the curve as he went to market with something folks who have been ready for, years before. He had the boldness and clarity to go for it.

    Thanks for the inspired share.

  4. Tim, is there any hope that your show Fearless may one day be on a more accessible venue? I love hearing the Podcasts, but knowing that there were three hours recorded and I only heard a little bit it’s frustrating. BTW, the parts I heard with Rasmussen were fabulous! So totally interesting.

  5. I loved the question about what kind of TED talk he would give aside from discussing what he does for a living. His hesitation revealed a reluctance to publicly discuss issues beyond his expertise. Perhaps it touches on his own insecurities…his inquiry about the purpose of such a question suggests that it does. He is obviously someone with a great deal of insight into human character and to me it was interesting to observe what he already noted…that despite this insight, he struggles just as everyone else to be honest.

  6. Tim,

    i was actually there for the shooting of that episode and loved the whole conversation! Any chance, it will be made available internationally? Unfortunately there is no way to watch it on DirectTV from outside the US.


  7. Any chance you can record a “Negative Visualization” podcast to walk one through the thinking process. I know you recommend this exercise regularly… it would be nice to have an audible aid to help facilitate the exercise! (something short would be neat, much like the Tony Robbins snippet you provided)

  8. Hey guys and lads,

    I know it’s an offtop. Feel free to ban me if you wish.

    I’m a 23 yo polish male.

    My parents used to have a construction company. Basically selling windows, doors and accessories.

    Everything was great. I took care of myself and my education. We had money and were relatively wealthy. Until…

    My father had decided to confide in a wrong person and without proper research built an office in Netherlands. He rented a big ass house, luxurious offices and a warehouse.

    It all went down in a great struggle. Next to no customers and a lot of overdues. The great debt cast a shadow upon us.

    I was naive enough to let my parents reopen the company on me. They stated bankruptcy and carried on with what they did before but more cautiously.

    Now the company is in a bad shape again and they came to me to fix it. There was so much overwhelm that I failed at my regular job and got fired. My parents want me to take charge and reduce themselves to just shift-workers.

    Now I decided to dedicate myself fully to the company and rebuild it. Because of many reasons, I am unable to shut it down, so it would be on the back of my head anyway.

    Right now the company consists of:

    Here are the strong points of the company:


    -good contracts and discounts from suppliers

    -my father’s knowledge and experience

    -overall good reputation

    -large base of customers in the region and abroad

    Here are the challenges:

    -my lack of experience and leadership skills

    -lack of motivation and burn-out on my parent’s side

    -lack of dedicated and qualified full-time assembly team – most of the workers flee to Norway and Germany

    -no schedule whatsoever

    -outdated methods of running the sales, the warehouse and the office (very low computer literacy at my parents’ side)

    -no method of keeping track of the company’s progress.

    Possible solutions:

    -using EU programs to educate parents and workers

    -making an agreement with the local technical school to recruit potential long-term workers

    -outsourcing the installation (longer waiting time)

    -creating an online shop, focusing on accessories, making tutorials for the customer to enable assembly on his side (more and more popular option in Poland)

    What I’ve managed so far:

    Partially decluttering the office and warehouses.

    Reducing the times of the tasks in the office.

    Reducing the costs of accountancy and bookkeeping.

    In progress:

    Introducing basic logistic solutions to the warehouse.

    New website, FB, and marketing strategies.

    Proper way of scheduling the work and keeping track of the financial results.

    Introducing new goods and getting rid of the outdated/non-profitable options.

    Could you give just few pieces of your own knowledge, experience or opinion?

    It all seems quite overwhelming. I need someone else’s perspective.

  9. Tim, I am wondering if you have done any interviews on how to get outside investment for a new start up?



  10. Hey ,

    I have been listening to your podcast since 2016, you are doing a great job, Please sound of the podcast is not great as Masters of scale podcast, Please improve this I want to listen podcasts as we listen songs sound I hope you got my point.

  11. Tim,

    I ask for your time to answer three questions:

    1) What is your #1 tip for starting a business?

    2) What is one thing you wish you could have done differently?

    3) Who is your role model?

    Anything is appreciated. Thanks!

  12. Sadly, ESPN has gone from being a great network, to a failing network. Their evolution away from sports and into poker, liberal social issues, and squeaking women hosts dressed like barfly sluts, has cost them millions of lost viewers and radio listeners. I used to basically live on ESPN, but dropped it back when they started replacing real sports with poker shows. People like myself loved ESPN for a chance to get away from all the drivel they now incorporate. It’s just gotten worse since then. Just the impression of one ex-viewer/listener.


  14. Interesting to hear you referring to the great sport of hurling on a number of occasions. You may be aware that there is a three game hurling festival scheduled for Fenway Park on Sunday Nov 19th ’17 with four of the top senior teams travelling from Ireland to participate with the winners of the two semi-finals then playing in a final.

    Playing revised rules due to the small size of the American football field it will be an exciting day of hurling with attendance of more that 20,000 expected.

    As a New Yorker living in Dublin for over 20 years I will be travelling to watch my son playing with the Dublin team at the iconic venue.

    Your shows are a super listen, and on many occasions inspiring. All the best.